Unsolicited Fatherly Advice

Paul E. Fallon
4 min readJun 15, 2022

In time for Father’s Day, I read this vignette by Indrani Sen, Culture Editor for The New York Times. A thirteen-year-old girl, Sasha, asked her parents for permission to skip school. Her father, Matt Gross replied, “Not allowed. Nope!” and then offered this unsolicited advice:

“Next time you want to skip school, don’t tell your parents. Just go. Browse vintage stores, eat your favorite snack, lie on your back in Prospect Park, and stare at the clouds. Isn’t that the point of skipping school, after all? To sneak around, to steal time and space back from the arbitrary system that enfolds you? To hell with permission! That’s being a teenager — carving out a private life for yourself under the noses of the authority figures who surround you.”

I like to think I don’t give unsolicited advice. But of course, I do. We all do. Because…well…our advice is invaluable — or so we think. Besides, giving it away is as satisfying as it is easy. I admire Matt’s unsolicited advice to his daughter because it resonates with my own spirit of parenting. It also triggered an internal analysis: what advice did I bestowed upon my own children; how did it lodge in their heads?

A father with an infant at the park, mid-day, mid-week, in 1989: it was a rare thing. Yet there I was, primary parent for our wee daughter, target of unending amounts of unsolicited advice. Every mother in the playground felt obligated (Compelled? Entitled?) to correct everything I did. “She’s too cold.” “She’s too hot.” “She’s hungry.” “She’s wet.” When my daughter was calm or cooing, the stream of unsolicited advice was steady. The moment she fussed, it became a torrent.

Over time, I grew accustomed to ignoring the advice (and the women who offered it). Though occasionally, I wound up and pitched back. Once, when my daughter was maybe two, shooting head first down the grand slide at Robbins Park in Arlington, an apoplectic mother ran up and shouted, “She’s going to get hurt!” Abby flew off the end of the slide, I scooped her into my arms, raised the exuberant critter to my face, and bussed her quivering cheek. Then I grinned at the meddler, and simply replied, “Not this time.”

Paul E. Fallon

Seeking balance in a world of opposing tension